Harvard’s State of the Nation’s Housing Report Points to Growing Rental Housing Crisis

By Anthony J. Alfieri

Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies released its annual State of the Nation’s Housing report on Wednesday, June 22, 2016 – offering a striking analysis of how our national affordable rental housing crisis continues to deepen, putting families and local economies at risk.

The report found that a record 21.3 million renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, while 11.4 million renters spend more than half of their income on housing.

The findings point to the need to protect and strengthen the proven tools we have to create affordable rental housing—now more than ever.

As the report notes, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (Housing Credit) continues to be the primary tool for creating and preserving affordable rental housing nationwide. Nearly all affordable rental homes developed each year in the United States rely on the Housing Credit, which has financed nearly 3 million apartments since its creation in 1986 and provided roughly 6.5 million low-income households with homes they can afford.

The Housing Credit is a driver of economic progress as well, helping to support 96,000 jobs and bringing $3.5 billion in taxes and other revenues to local economies each year.

Recognizing the need to strengthen this essential community development tool, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2016 last month. The act would phase in a 50 percent increase to Housing Credit allocations over ten years. More specifically, the bill – which was endorsed by the Bipartisan Policy Center – would help create or preserve 400,000 more affordable homes than would be possible under the current program.

The latest numbers from Harvard demonstrate that our nation’s rental housing crisis isn’t going to go away by itself. Governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations must work together to reverse this trend. Senators on both sides of the aisle should support The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2016 as a positive step toward creating more quality, affordable rental homes to make a dent in the growing need.

Anthony J. Alfieri is President, Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition, and Managing Director, RBC Capital Markets